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How to Find & Use Safe Dental Floss

Published by Dr. Charles Gemmi

A Board Certified Orthodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, Dr. Charles Gemmi has been a practicing orthodontist with Orthodontics Limited since 2000 and is a member of the teaching staff at Einstein Medical Center. Orthodontics Limited is a Diamond+ Provider of Invisalign in Philadelphia and Hatboro, PA.

When you go in for your 6-month teeth cleaning, your hygienist is always reminding you about the importance of flossing your teeth, right? And it is very important, but as with any product you use, you need to make sure the type of floss you are using isn’t made of some questionable ingredients that have been linked to adverse health risks. So how do you know you are using safe dental floss?

Well, floss in general is usually made of either Teflon, nylon, silk or polyester. If it is a waxed floss, then it might be coated with either petroleum, beeswax or coconut oil.

Some of the ingredients that popular floss manufacturers use are toxic to our health and some our toxic to our environment. A recent study, “Serum concentrations of PFASs and exposure-related behaviors in African American and non-Hispanic white women,” published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology found that women who used Oral-B Glide dental floss had higher levels of perfuoralkyl substances (PFAS) in their bloodstream than those who didn’t use this brand of floss. This floss and some of their competitors also contain fluorine, another marker of PFAS chemicals.

In addition, according to Health.com, “Last year, a Harvard University study found that women with higher levels of PFAS tend to have slower metabolisms and gain back more weight after dieting than those with lower levels. This wasn’t true of men, however, and researchers suspect that the chemicals’ effects on female sex hormones may be responsible.”

Here are some of the ingredients you should watch out for:

Teflon

You might have Teflon pans in your home, but did you know that some dental floss also have Teflon in it? While you most likely not swallow your floss, the Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) in Teflon has been linked to thyroid disease and other health risks, even if just a little bit gets into your system. Teflon has also been linked to hormone imbalance, cancer, autoimmune disease, neurotoxicity and Alzheimer’s disease. Is it really worth the risk?

Petroleum

You can be exposed to petroleum two ways with dental floss. First, nylon floss is made from petroleum, and second the wax on most dental floss is made from petroleum. While there isn’t a lot of research on the possible risks of using floss containing petroleum, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that about 22% of all personal care products that contain petroleum have almost 24 toxins including 1,4-dioxane which causes cancer in animals. Petroleum products are also known to cause candidiasis of the mouth in infants, and can affect hormone balance in all of us.

Nylon

Nylon floss, besides being made from petroleum, is bad for the environment. It does not decompose easily and ends up as more trash on our planet. Plus the chemicals in it can contaminate our air and water. However if your choice is either a nylon-based floss or a Teflon-based floss, most dental experts recommend the nylon-based products.

Now all this doesn’t mean stopping flossing completely. If you only have access to or can only afford the standard floss products than the risks are small enough that it is actually better for your oral health to floss with it then to not floss at all.

Does It Matter If It Is Waxed or Unwaxed?

When it comes to the health of your mouth, it really doesn’t matter whether the floss you use is of the waxed or unwaxed variety. People do tend to have personal preferences though. Some people find waxed floss easier to use and they like the choice of different flavorings. Some waxed floss users also report that they experience less bleeding than when they use unwaxed floss.

Others, however, feel that unwaxed floss is better at getting between the teeth and tend to prefer their floss unflavored. Unwaxed floss also tends to be less expensive.

What Are Safe Dental Floss Options?

Luckily, there are plenty of safe dental floss options to choose from. Instead of nylon floss, look for floss made of natural silk which is biodegradable. If you are going for a nylon floss, look for one that is coated in something other than petroleum. Beeswax is a popular alternative.

Check out Askthedentist.com for some recommendations on safe dental floss. Among their list is Radius Natural Silk Floss and Boka Mint Floss.

The most important thing to remember though is to floss every day. Experts recommend doing it at night right after brushing your teeth before bed. That way there are no food particles or bacteria in mouth overnight to wreak havoc. Technique matters as well. Rub the floss gently in between your teeth to get to the gum line. Do not use harsh “saw” like motions that can cause bleeding and irritation.

Getting braces is another way to improve your oral health besides safe dental floss. If you are not happy with your smile, call us at Orthodontics Limited today for an initial consultation.

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5 responses to “How to Find & Use Safe Dental Floss”

  1. Me - Clare Peniston-Bird says:

    “If you are going for a nylon floss look for one that isn’t coated in something other than petroleum. ”

    Did you mean to say “something that IS coated in something other than petroleum? You might like to correct this, given the subject of the article.
    Cheers, Clare

  2. Michael Saekel says:

    Oral B Charcoal Mint Floss on package or doing a search does not show ingredients other than a burst of mint flavor or infused with charcoal.
    Calling Oral B I was disconnected twice. I called P&G and they were no help.
    I have not used it and was wondering how a company can sell something used in a mouth and not show ingredients.
    Seems very strange.
    Thanks.

    • Sam says:

      I don’t know the answer to your question. But, Risewell sells floss with clean ingredients! That’s the brand our family uses!

    • Alanna says:

      Producers of floss are not required to disclose ingredients. There are other producers of more environmental, healthier floss, like Radius and TreeBird that do not have harmful ingredients like PFAs. I’d recommend googling the best silk-based flosses

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